Retrospective: weekend in Greece

M and I spent a long weekend in January in Greece. Considering the breadth of sites in Greece, we only scratched the surface. But our trip occurred on the weekend of the Greece’s election for Prime Minister, so therefore the pulse and energy existing throughout was palpable. M joked about keeping his German identity a closely guarded secret for fear of becoming a target in a German manhunt.

But we (he) survived and managed to enjoy the getaway despite frequent downpours and otherwise generally wet conditions. The specific purpose of heading to Greece in January was so we could attempt to gain Gold status on Aegean Airlines, the Greek national carrier. I had heard a year prior from a friend that Aegean Airlines was a surprisingly easy airline to achieve Gold. By only obtaining 16,000 miles and no need to actually fly the airline, the miles could be accumulated by flying partner airlines on Star Alliance such as Lufthansa or United Airlines or another airline we also began to fly from New York to Frankfurt: Singapore Air. I was nearly there in the fall, and M started a few weeks prior almost catching up due to his frequent business travel schedule when we received notification that they were changing their requirements for Gold status. Now Gold requires 24,000 miles along with flying the airline at least 4 times OR 48,000 miles. My miles were set to start expiring in March, so we decided to go for it and book a trip to Athens and Rhodes, thereby getting our four flights in.

Frankfurt –> Athens –> Rhodes –> Athens –> Frankfurt

We thought we were so smart, but nowhere did they mention in the fine print that we would be reduced the miles and flights once obtaining Silver status – the intermediate level. So we took the trip, but unfortunately never obtained Gold.

Greece was otherwise a very cool country to visit. We stayed at a hotel right on Monastiraki Square called A for Athens. The room was very spacious and they had a nice roof top bar overlooking the square and the Acropolis up on the hill. I like to travel by looking for value. Rarely do we stay in the most luxurious locations, but ones that are good value for the money. Cleanliness and good design are key, as I can’t stand staying in a hotel with outdated and worn furnishings. It must demonstrate a certain freshness, and I was satisfied with this choice. The service was friendly though perhaps a bit slow, and I was somewhat concerned about the noise factor after reading many reviews on Trip Advisor stating how loud it was if you had a room overlooking the square. Ours was not and the view wasn’t anything to speak of, but the noise level was low.

Waking up to the Acropolis
Waking up to the Acropolis
Night view of the Acropolis
Night view of the Acropolis

But the neighborhoods of Psirri and Plaka where the hotel was located were wonderful with tons of shops, cafes and restaurants. For nightlife lovers, the area couldn’t be beat.

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The colors of Athens
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An area below the acropolis tended to be where the homes were kept up better
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The route up to the acropolis20150123_153906 20150123_161456_HDR20150123_160022

The benefit of seeing the Acropolis in January was the much lighter crowds and the bearable weather. We had a nice 20C in the sun (~70F) on our first day in Athens but the weather on the rest of the trip was quite rainy.

Greece seems to be a hopeful country. The “average people” want life to turn a corner and for all the talk of unscrupulous behavior with finances, the average person lived a normal life paying taxes as expected. But the cities itself are worn in energy, patience and livelihood.

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The number of stray dogs and cats was overwhelming
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Abandoned buildings were all over the city

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I can recommend Brettos in Athens as a nice wine bar. Greek wines are still trying to emerge in the wine world, and we did enjoy a nice glass or two (or more).

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Brettos Wine Bar

We found Rhodes to be quite pleasant to tour without throngs of tourists. Granted pretty much everything was closed in the old town where we stayed, but it was peaceful. We spent only one day there, and it started off with bright sunshine but the second half of the day was all rain.

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Walls of the old town
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The beach at Rhodes City
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Harbor in Rhodes City
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Gate of the old town
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Old Town
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Harbor in Rhodes City

We stayed in Nikos Takis Hotel in Rhodes which was pleasant. It was located directly in the old town, and they made an amazing breakfast. The room was ornately decorated and the other rooms all had different themes. My major gripe is the bathroom – it could have used infrastructural updates as we were warned we shouldn’t put anything in the toilet at all (not even toilet paper). This was a bit confusing and inconvenient, and a definite downside to considering to staying there again.

With so many different islands and places to go in Greece, I would certainly like to see more and more. And maybe someday we can actually obtain Gold status.

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